By Jason Perlow
When I began writing for Talk Media, I told Editor in Chief Sharon Aron Baron that I would not write about pizza restaurants unless they were doing something unusual or were producing extremely high-quality food. The reasons for this are simple — I don’t eat a lot of carbs, and I rarely eat any pizza at all.
If I am going to eat pizza, it should be the best pizza you can eat — it should be exceptional.
I consider myself to be very well-versed in what the absolute peak of pizza perfection should be. But first, we need to understand what we mean by “pizza” and what “absolute peak of perfection” is.
Some pizza aficionados will tell you that it should be a thin-crust pie, that it should be from a steel deck oven, such as a place like DiFara in Brooklyn, has made since 1965. Or maybe it should be made in a coal-burning oven that is used at Frank Pepe’s in New Haven, Connecticut. Perhaps; it needs to be made by a highly experienced single artisan, from a 100-year-old stone oven, at Santillo’s, in Elizabeth, New Jersey — recently declared best in ‘da state by the Star-Ledger newspaper.
All of those are some of the most stand-out examples of the best pizzas in the entire country. But if you ask an Italian — as in someone that comes from Italy — none of those are remotely pizza.
In Italy, pizza is an entirely different animal from what we serve in the United States. In Naples, where the pizza originates and is codified to a standard by Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana — it can only be made with two specific types of high-protein flours, “0” and “00” (Zero/Doppio Zero), along with brewer’s yeast, salt, and water.
The official Pizza Margherita must use fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese; the sauce can only be processed Italian San Marzano tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, and sometimes a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Additionally, the pizza must be cooked between 60 and 90 seconds, total, in a 485 °C (905 °F) wood-fired oven. This baking method yields a soft, elastic, tender, and fragrant crust, which is entirely different from the crust of an American-style pizza.
Italy is so serious about Pizza Napoletana that it has a protected status, a Denomination of Control (DOC). It assigns them to its export cheeses, meats, wines, balsamic vinegar, and tomatoes. And to be allowed to call your pizza as Pizza Napoletana, as a baker, you have to be certified to do it, in Italy, by the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani (APN).
Naturally, there aren’t many people who have this certification in the United States. The second person to receive one was Roberto Caporuscio, who opened pizza parlors in New Jersey and New York City — starting with A Mano in 2007, which I covered with great fanfare at my New Jersey food blog, Off The Broiler, at the time. Unfortunately, Jersey didn’t quite “get” authentic Neapolitan pizza, and Caporuscio went on to open other places, such as Keste, in NYC.
However, the first person in the United States to get an APN certification was Shaun Aloisio, who opened his pizzeria, with Caporuscio consulting — in Delray Beach, in 2011. That pizza place was Scuola Vecchia, literally “Old School” in Italian.
After ten years in Delray Beach, Aloisio and his mother, Sharon, decided to shut its doors and move to Coral Springs in a retail space previously occupied by a coffee shop. The Aloisio’s, whose family originally hails from Sicily (by way of Philadelphia), has created a very metropolitan and sheik Italian cafe atmosphere, along with a high-end under-counter espresso machine and a bright red manual meat slicer. But the prized possession of this restaurant is their Acunto wood-fired pizza oven, sent in one piece from Naples, Italy, which can reach temperatures exceeding 1000 degrees.
We tried two of the pizzas, the Regina Margherita and the Keste’. The Regina Margherita ($12) was just like its Italian namesake, using imported buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, with fresh cherry tomatoes. The Keste’ ($20) adds Prosciutto di Parma, Arugula, and shaved Gran Cru Pecorino cheese. If we are strictly talking real Pizza Napoletana, these are the true expression of pizza perfection. The crust is soft, pliable, and there is only the amount of sauce and cheese and other toppings needed for a single diner’s meal. You could even say these pizzas are ethereal, light — a term that is not often used with American-style pizza.
Yes, these pies cost more than their local counterparts. But understand that the Aloisios aren’t taking any shortcuts, and they are using the highest quality ingredients possible. They aren’t allowed to take any shortcuts if they expect to keep that APN certification. Including the imported Caputo 00 flour, which is used to make the dough, only uses real San Marzano tomatoes and Italian mozzarella di bufala. They also make their own mozzarella and burrata cheese onsite.
Besides an extensive menu of various white and red sauce pizzas with many toppings using authentic imported Italian ingredients, they cook with as many locally sourced ingredients as possible, such as their seafood. The menu features a selection of antipasti (small plates), and they make Sicilian rice balls (arancini) in-house. Fresh pasta is also made on-site, by Sharon Aloisio herself — but only one variant, Fettuccine (and as Lasagne noodles). Panini sandwiches using bread baked from the pizza dough and imported Italian salumi and salads are also offered, along with a highly curated wine list and a selection of desserts, such as affogato (espresso coffee with gelato ice cream).
The Aloisios pride themselves on being highly specialized as a Pizza Napoletana restaurant. So while you might not get the breadth of entrees here as you might get at another Italian restaurant in Coral Springs and Parkland, you will get the most authentic Italian pizza experience possible. For those who like to dine al fresco, the restaurant has outdoor seating for up to 40 people.
SCUOLA VECCHIA PIZZA E VINO
Waterway Shoppes at Heron Bay
6240 Coral Ridge Drive Suite 115, Coral Springs FL 33076
Hours: 4 p.m. – 10 p.m., Mon-Sat
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Jason Perlow is a long-time foodie who spent 20 years in the New York City and New Jersey metro areas reviewing restaurants for The New York Times and his personal food blog, Off The Broiler, which he started in 2006 and ran for ten years. He is also the founder of eGullet, a popular food discussion site and not-for-profit organization that was formed in 2001, which was featured on Tony Bourdain's "No Reservations" cable television program.
As a technologist by profession, he writes the Tech Broiler blog for CBS's ZDNet web site. He has been a Coral Springs resident since moving to South Florida in 2012.
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